October 18, 2013 was a historic day in world history. This was the day Saudi Arabia did what the United States and 159 other nations of the world did not have the good sense to do: reject the United Nations for its impotence in doing what it was chartered to do—prevent wars. But the Saudis were not content to just speak out against the United Nations. They put some muscle behind their words by refusing to accept the most coveted gift the U. N. can offer: a seat on its Security Council. Just hours after being elected to the Security Council, the Saudis turned down the “honor,” primarily because they are upset with the Obama Administration’s handling of the Syrian crisis and the on-going turmoil in the Middle East. I have no doubt that the Saudis will eventually accept a seat on the Security Council. However, at least for the short term they have made a powerful statement that is getting the attention of a lot of other nations.
Here is what the Saudi Foreign Ministry had to say in rejecting the Security Council seat: “Allowing the ruling regime in Syria to kill its people and burn them with chemical weapons in front of the entire world and without any deterrent or punishment is clear proof and evidence of the U.N. Security Council’s inability to perform its duties and shoulder its responsibilities.” He is right and I could list hundreds of other cases of U. N. impotence over the years. Saudi Foreign Ministry officials are also upset about how the Security Council has mishandled or failed to handle other crisis situations in the Middle East, particularly President Obama’s recent coziness with Iran. Once again the Saudis are right. Iran has been poorly handled from the outset by the Obama Administration.
I do not enjoy agreeing with a foreign nation when it claims that America’s president is mishandling the Middle East. But an objective observer must admit that the Saudis are just saying what many Americans have long believed. The United Nations is an expensive, poorly conceived, impotent waste of time, money, and talent. When Woodrow Wilson—probably the most naïve man to ever serve as president of the United States—conceived the League of Nations at the end of World War I, his idea was that it would provide a forum in which all nations of the world would put aside national interests and work together to prevent future wars. Nice theory, but Wilson should have ventured outside the rarified environment of academia more often. Had he, Wilson would have been more attuned to how the real world works.
Nations do not put aside their national interests, nor are their leaders supposed to. For example, the number one job of the president of the United States is to protect the national interests of our country. This is the basis for that most enduring of foreign policy maxims: In foreign relations we have no friends, just other countries with common interests. And, of course, common interests can change over time and do. What President Wilson, a former college professor, failed to realize was that sovereign nations are just like people in that they tend to act on the basis of self-interest. To do otherwise would require Christ-like selflessness, something few people and even fewer nations ever achieve—even when they try. The United Nations is nothing but the modern-day version of what President Wilson tried to put in place during his administration—the League of Nations.
The United Nations was conceived with the over-arching purpose of preventing wars. Hence, a quick examination of the historical record will show how effective (or ineffective) the organization has been in accomplishing its mission. Johan Galtung of the Center for International Studies at Princeton University—where Woodrow Wilson first served as professor and then president—alludes to the self-evident failure of the United Nations in his monograph: “THE UNITED NATIONS TODAY—PROBLEMS AND SOME PROPOSALS.” Galtung wrote: “But what about the war and peace issue? Has the United Nations not been an outright failure along this rather important dimension? It looks like that: by 1982, during the Falkland/Malvinas War we were already up to 148 wars after the end of the Second World War—by now we are about 160 wars short of what we might call peace.” The reader should understand that Galtung’s monograph is a defense of the United Nations. He is a U.N. fan. Galtung wrote this statement in 1986. Since that time the United Nations has failed miserably to prevent numerous other wars across the globe.
What the U.N. has done is give foreign spies and supporters of international terrorism unfettered access to America. It has also allowed foreign officials to come to America, behave badly, and receive the protection of sovereign immunity. Finally, the U.N. has cost America enough money to take a substantial bite out of the federal deficit. While the U.S. continues to struggle with a monumental budget deficit, we continue to pay the lion’s share of the costs for an organization that at best does the world no good. Congratulations to the Saudis for showing such good sense.